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Archive of November 21, 2006

Pope trying to restore world's sense of faith and reason, Weigel says at U.N. conference

, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has been reflecting upon the relationship of faith and reason and warning about the dangers that come with the loss of a reasonable faith for decades, long before the now-famous Regensburg lecture, said Papal scholar and author George Weigel at a conference held at the United Nations yesterday.

The conference, titled “Relativism and the Crisis of Cultures in the Writings of his Holiness Pope Benedict XVI,” was sponsored by Archbishop Celestino Migliore, Permanent Observer of the Holy See to the UN.  Weigel was joined by Italian Senator and scholar Marcello Pera, who co-authored a book with the Pontiff when he was Cardinal Joseph Ratziner. It was held in the UN’s Dag Hammarskjold Library Auditorium.

Weigel, a Catholic author and senior fellow of the Ethics and Public Policy Center in Washington, D.C., told those gathered that the Pontiff is challenging the entire world to consider the cultural consequences of a collapse of both faith and reason. Though the Pope’s comments on Islam were given the lion’s share of attention, Weigel said, a large portion of Benedict’s Regensburg talk focused another “real and present danger” - the loss of faith in reason in the West.

Weigel reflected on the thought of the Holy Father and his own close reading of Cardinal Ratzinger’s “Christianity and the Crisis of Cultures,” which warns that Western society is in danger, in large part, “because it will be unable to give an account of its political commitments and their moral foundations.”  Weigel also outlined four of the book’s key propositions.

He said the book’s first proposition is that people “live in a moment of dangerous imbalance in the relationship between the West’s technological capabilities and the West’s moral understanding.” In the Pope’s words, “moral strength has not grown in tandem with the development of science.”

The second proposition is that “the moral and political lethargy … in much of Europe today is one by-product of Europe’s disdain for the Christian roots of its unique civilization … which has contributed in various ways to the decline of what was once the center of world culture and world-historical initiative.

The third proposition is that Europe’s abandonment of its Christian roots “implies the abandonment of the idea of ‘Europe’ as a civilizational enterprise constructed from the fruitful interaction of Jerusalem, Athens, and Rome.”

“This infidelity to the past has led, in turn, to a truncated idea of reason, and of the human capacity to know, however imperfectly, the truth of things, including the moral truth of things. There is a positivism shaping (and misshaping) much of Western thought today – a positivism that excludes all transcendent moral reference points from public life,” Weigel said.

The fourth proposition is that “the recovery of reason in the West would be facilitated by a reflection on the fact that the Christian concept of God as Logos helped shape the distinct civilization of the West as a synthesis of Athens, Jerusalem, and Rome.”

“Pope Benedict … has for some time now been trying to give the world a precious gift: a vocabulary through which a serious, global discussion of both the crisis of technological civilization in the West and the crisis posed by jihadist ideology and its lethal expressions around the world can be engaged by believers and nonbelievers alike – the vocabulary of ‘rationality and ‘irrationality’,” Weigel said.
 
“If Europe begins to recover its faith in reason, then at least some in Europe may, in time, rediscover the reasonableness of faith; and in any event, a renewed faith in reason would provide an antidote to the spiritual boredom from which Europe is dying – and thus open the prospect of a new birth of freedom in Europe, and throughout the West,” said Weigel.
 
“Benedict XVI has been trying to remind the world that societies and cultures are only as great as their spiritual aspirations,” Weigel said.

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Pope Benedict XVI completes first book of Pontificate, "Jesus of Nazareth"

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - Pope Benedict XVI has finished work on the first book of what he hopes will become a two volume exploration into the person of Jesus Christ.  Press releases from the both Vatican Press Office and Publishing House announced today that "Jesus of Nazareth, From His Baptism in the Jordan to the Transfiguration," is to provide a historic and theological analysis of the figure of Jesus.

However, in an advance copy of the preface the Pontiff reportedly admits, that because, “I don't know how much time and how much strength will still be granted to me, I have decided to publish the first 10 chapters as the first volume.  The book, which has been sent to the Vatican Publishing House for printing, is expected to be released in the spring of 2007.

In its communiqué, the Vatican Publishing House thanked the Holy Father for sending the work along and announced its intent to work quickly for worldwide distribution of this, the first work of Benedict XVI.  The Publishing House also announced that it has established an agreement with Rizzoli Publishing House for increased distribution of the work.  

The Pope began writing the book when he was still a cardinal and serving as Prefect of the Congregation for the Doctrine of the Faith, in 2003.  He was able to put the finishing touches on it while on vacation this summer.

The Pontiff indicates in the book’s foreword that this should not be considered infallible from a magisterial point of view.  "This work is not an absolute act of magisterial teaching, but merely an expression of my personal research into the face of the Lord.  Therefore, everyone is free to contradict me," Pope Benedict stated.  

The Pontiff said his intent was, "to present the Jesus of the Gospels as the one true Jesus, like the historic Jesus, in an authentic sense of the expression."

"The teaching of Jesus does not stem from human learning.  It comes from intimate contact with the Father, from face to face dialogue, to see that which is in the depths of the Father.  It is the Word of the Son," continued the Pope in his introduction.  

The Rizzoli Publishing House announced that the work of the Holy Father is a "magnificent fresco, in two volumes, on what the Pope describes as ‘the mystery of Jesus.’"  

As the work enters the world’s forum, added the Italian publishing house, "the Pope offers his original interpretations and historic-theological analysis of the foundation of the Christian faith, continuing with the scientific work that has been carried out over the past 50 years."

"Benedict XVI describes Jesus with great passion, permitting every reader to reflect inwardly and to be touched by Christ; at the same time conserving a rigorous scientific line that characterizes the writings and speeches of the scholar."

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Cardinal Poupard heads meeting on Catholic culture in Goa

Goa, India, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - Cardinal Paul Poupard is in Goa, India this week to promote what he calls, a sincere and authentic intercultural and inter-religious dialogue carried out in mutual respect, openness and charity, he told a press conference yesterday.

The cardinal, who serves as both the prefect of the Pontifical Council for Culture and the president of the Pontifical Council for Inter-religious Dialogue, is in Goa to preside at a four-day meeting of Church-run cultural centers in India, reported the Indian Catholic News Service.

The tiny Indian state of Goa contains a relatively high proportion of Catholics compared to the rest of India.  While just over 2% of Indians are Christians, Nearly one third of Portuguese colonized area of Goa are Christian.  The state is seen as a foothold from which the minority Indian Christians can establish greater respect nationwide.

The four-day-meeting begins today at Pilar Theological College on the theme: “Catholic Cultural Centres: Cultural Resources for Living the Christian Faith in Dialogue with the Traditional Cultures in the Context of Evolving Cultures.”

Representatives of 40 cultural centers from across India will attend. These centers are engaged in promoting Catholic culture as well as inculturating the Christian faith in non-Christian environments.

Yesterday, the cardinal inaugurated the Kristu Kala Mandir Art Gallery at Old Goa.

Archbishop Felipe Neri Ferrao of Goa and Daman and other church dignitaries were present in the episcopal palace where the art gallery is housed.

The archbishop described the gallery as “a splendid and unique treasure of contemporary Christian art” which also features contributions from non-Christian artists from India and abroad, reported the Navhind Times.

He said he looked forward to seeing the gallery turn into a “place of dynamic inter-cultural and inter-religious dialogue, through the medium of the visual arts, over one single subject: Christ.”

At a press conference after the inauguration, Cardinal Poupard spoke of the Church’s promotion of interfaith and intercultural dialogue and collaboration, reported the Navhind Times.

The Church exhorts that its members “through dialogue and collaboration with the followers of other religions, carried out with prudence and love and in witness to the Christian faith and life, [they] recognize, preserve and promote the good things, spiritual and moral, as well as the socio-cultural values among these men,” he was quoted as saying.

He said the Church is engaged in a dialogue fully open to the best demands of the cultures of our times: unity and plurality, particularity and universality, truth and modernity, beauty and practicality.

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Vatican announces itinerary for top Anglican’s visit

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - The Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity announced today, the itinerary for the primate of the Anglican Communion, Archbishop Rowan Williams of Canterbury, who is making an official visit to the Vatican this week.

Archbishop Williams, accompanied by his wife and son, arrived in Rome today with the eight-person Anglican delegation he is heading.  The visit, which will end on November 24th, marks the 40th anniversary of the meeting between Pope Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey - from March 22 to 24, 1966 - and aims "to express the importance the Anglican Communion attributes to relations with the Catholic Church and to the theological dialogue that began with the creation, announced during Paul VI's meeting with Archbishop Ramsey, of the Anglican - Roman Catholic International Commission (ARCIC)."

The central moment of the Archbishop of Canterbury's visit will be his private meeting with the Holy Father on Thursday, November 23. After that meeting, the Pope and the archbishop will each deliver an address, and a joint declaration will be signed in the presence of the members of the Anglican delegation and of the Catholic representatives who accompanied the archbishop to Rome, headed by Cardinal Cormac Murphy-O'Connor, Archbishop of Westminster.

After the audience, Benedict XVI and Archbishop Williams, will go to the Vatican's "Redemptoris Mater" Chapel where they will pray together.

On November 22, the Anglican archbishop and Cardinal Walter Kasper, prefect of the Pontifical Council for Promoting Christian Unity, will visit the Sistine Chapel where they will pray together and recollect the meeting there 40 years earlier between Paul VI and Archbishop Michael Ramsey.

The press release states that during the course of the visit, Archbishop Williams and Cardinal Kasper will examine the current state of Catholic-Anglican relations, the planning and content of a new cycle of dialogue in the ARCIC following its most recent publication "Mary, Grace, and Hope in Christ" in May 2005, the work of the International Anglican - Roman Commission for Unity and Mission (IARCCUM) established in 2000, and the ecumenical situation in general."

On November 24, several delegates will lead an ecumenical celebration of Vespers at the church of Santa Maria sopra Minerva.  And on the afternoon of Sunday, November 26, prior to his departure, Archbishop Williams will preside at an Anglican liturgy in the Basilica of Santa Sabina on Rome's Aventine Hill.

One of the key issues for discussion will surely be recent decisions by Anglican/Episcopalian dioceses to attempt the ordination of women bishops.  In the last year Cardinal Kasper made clear to the archbishop that if the Church of England were to promote such ordinations, the tone of ecumenical dialogue with the Catholic Church would change.

"Ecumenical dialogue in the true sense of the word has as its goal the restoration of full Church Communion,” the Cardinal said in June. “That has been the presupposition of our dialogue until now. That presupposition would realistically no longer exist following the introduction of the ordination of women to episcopal office."

Above all, he continued, all hopes of intercommunion would end. "The shared partaking of the one Lord's table, which we long for so earnestly, would disappear into the far and ultimately unreachable distance,” Kasper said, “instead of moving towards one another we would coexist alongside one another."

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Syrian Catholics reaching out to help Iraqi refugees

Konigstein, Germany, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - According to a Syrian bishop, Catholics in Syria are struggling to provide adequate aid and assistance to thousands of Iraqi refugees.  Bishop Antoine Audo, of the Chaldean Catholic diocese of Aleppo, said that some 25,000 Iraqis have fled to his country, seeking shelter.

The prelate, who was made his comments during a visit to Catholic charity Aid to the Church in Need (ACN), stressed that Syria had received the vast majority of refugees and added that the Iraqis arriving in Damascus had been given “a warm welcome,” for which they were very grateful. He said that the refugees had packed into Damascus, with the authorities allowing them in without visas and supporting the efforts of Catholic leaders to provide accommodation and access to health care.
 
Bishop Audo went on to thank ACN for the emergency packages dispatched since the Iraqis began arriving in Syria after the 2003 overthrow of Saddam Hussein. He explained that in recent months there had been an explosion in the number of refugees from Iraq and that ACN’s help had also funded urgently needed hospital operations for the refugees.

The bishop reported that another part of ACN’s aid was going towards catechesis for up to 300 children. “There is a big need to help the people in Damascus. We cannot provide a solution for all the problems but we are doing whatever we can. We are very grateful to Aid to the Church in Need.”

The bishop went on to underline the increasing dangers faced by Christians in Iraq: “Kidnapping, death threats, and forcing the girls to wear the veil – for all these reasons, it is dangerous for Christians. They leave because they are afraid. The fanatics want to get rid of Christians completely,” he said and described how an Iraq priest escaped from the country after receiving death threats on his mobile phone. “The priest left everything behind. He still feels unsafe,” Bishop Audo said.

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Cardinal Bertone: Church’s social teaching enriches research and formation in Catholic universities

Vatican City, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - In a message to Cardinal Renato Martino, President of the Pontifical Council for Justice and Peace, for the closing of the international conference “The University and the Social Teaching of the Church,” Cardinal Tarcisio Bertone, Vatican Secretary of State, said the Church’s social teaching enriches research and formation at Catholic universities.
 
In his message the cardinal explained that the Church’s social teaching, "by its very structure tends toward interdisciplinary dialogue," and draws on the work of theology and philosophy, combining them with the best insights of the social sciences. 

“The issues addressed during this conference are of great prominence and relevance, because they are intended to give form and substance to the dialogue between the gospel and culture.  As is well known, one of the outstanding characteristics of today’s culture, above all at the academic level, is advanced research and specialization,” he said.  That specialization, the cardinal continued, carries "the risk of fragmentation," with each branch of the social sciences pursuing its own particular studies.

The Magisterium of the Church continuously stresses that “man is capable of attaining a unified and organic vision of knowledge,” Cardinal Bertone noted. “The Church’s social teaching is also tasked with this duty,” he said.

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Santa Rosa bishop offered counseling in lieu of criminal charges

San Francisco, Calif., Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - Bishop Daniel Walsh of Santa Rosa will follow a four-month counseling program, rather than face criminal charges, for failing to report child abuse allegations against a local priest, announced Sonoma County District Attorney Stephan Passalacqua.

In a statement Monday, Passalacqua said Bishop Walsh was eligible to participate in the Adult Diversion Services program because he admitted wrongdoing and has no prior record, reported The Associated Press.

Investigators reported in August that they had enough evidence to pursue a case against the bishop for failing to immediately report abuse by Fr. Xavier Ochoa.

The 68-year-old priest worked at St. Francis Solano Church in Sonoma before admitting misconduct in an April 28th meeting with the bishop and two other church officials. However, the bishop delayed reporting the abuse for three days, giving Ochoa ample time to flee to Mexico before authorities could arrest him, deputies said.

Ochoa is wanted on 10 felony counts and one misdemeanor count of child sex abuse, involving three boys.

State law requires clergymen to immediately report any suspicions of child sex abuse and to follow up by fax or e-mail within 36 hours. A violation has a potential penalty of six months in jail and a $1,000 fine.

Bishop Walsh has publicly apologized for failing to report the alleged misconduct immediately.

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Anti-celibacy sect attracts Catholic priests, ex-seminarians in Kenya

Nairobi, Kenya, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - A Kenyan sect, opposed to mandatory priestly celibacy in the Roman Catholic Church, is quietly wooing former and suspended Catholic priests to join it, reported the Catholic Information Service for Africa.

They are also targeting former Catholic seminarians with promises of formation overseas and ordination to married priesthood in the Reformed Roman Catholic Church.

The group is scouting for female candidates for the priesthood as well. The sect’s Nairobi-based coordinator, John Karimi, told CISA that two women have been accepted for formation in the United States to date.

Karimi is a former Catholic priest of the Diocese of Murang’a. He renounced his vows in 2004, after 15 years as a Roman Catholic priest, and joined the Reformed Church. According to CISA, he described celibacy as one of the “archaic laws” of the Catholic Church that should be scrapped.

He claims that “97 percent of priests live a hypocritical life” and they therefore should be allowed to maintain a sex life.

Karimi works with Godfrey Shiundu, a former priest of Kitale Diocese, whose automatic excommunication from the Catholic Church was announced in May by the Kenyan bishops, after he married in a much publicized ceremony.

In February, Bishop Maurice Crowley of Kitale wrote to all bishops of Kenya alerting them of the new sect headed by Shiundu.

Fr. Francis Moriasi, former vicar general of Eldoret Diocese, told CISA that the group had recruited at least three ex-priests from his diocese.

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“Architecture should point to the transcendent,” says Chilean designer

Lima, Peru, Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - One of Chile’s top architects said this week that architecture in both religious and civil structures should “point to the transcendent” and awaken in man “a more existential meaning of life.”

Cristian Undurraga, who designed the famous Shrine of St. Alberto Hurtado, told ACI Prensa during a visit to Lima, that the architecture of today’s cities should lead man to a deeper understanding of his essence, “in such fashion that the transcendent be present in daily life and not merely be the privilege of sacred art, but rather a challenge for each day, for each minute, in every place,” he said.

Undurraga said churches should be “a place of welcome, and that is what is expected of sacred art—that capacity to welcome and to foster an encounter with God.”  They should also be “simple spaces that awaken the existential meaning of life, divested of decorations, in which light, in some way, acts as the vehicle for transporting us towards an encounter with God.”

Undurraga said that while at times “the architect imposes his presence on his work in religious art,” the emphasis should instead be on “the presence of God, not that of the architect.”

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Archbishop exhorts faithful to respond positively to difficulties

Valencia, Fla., Nov 21, 2006 (CNA) - Archbishop Agustin Garcia-Gasco of Valencia has exhorted Catholics “to give positive and convincing responses to the expectations and questions of our people” and to show that “faith in the God who has a human face brings joy to the world.”

In his remarks for the closing of the 13th Symposium of Historical Theology, Archbishop Garcia-Gasco warned against “the grave uncertainties that characterize the current situation of the Church in Europe.,” the AVAN news agency reported.

The archbishop said that while Christianity “is an essential element” in the history of Europe, the continent is undergoing a, “rejection of its Christian past,” and that, “profoundly scornful attitudes and mistrust of Christianity have been fostered.”  The attempt to build a society without the Church is behind such attitudes, he said.

In this context Catholics are called to “maintain, and if possible, even increase our dynamism” and to “contribute to the moral and cultural growth of our society,” the archbishop explained.

Catholic education is one way to accomplish this goal, he continued, by providing intellectual formation “to the young generations without neglecting to teach them about their freedom and their capacity to love.”

Openness to the world, he stressed, is necessary to effectively convey the Christian message and “to understand the keys to communication and the most appropriate language” for making the faith “a source of freedom and of life.”

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